Gilbert to face unbeaten Munoz at MontBleu | NevadaAppeal.com

Gilbert to face unbeaten Munoz at MontBleu

BY MIKE HOUSER

Appeal Sports Writer

Just as he did when he made his international debut on the NBC reality series “The Contender,” Reno’s Joey Gilbert is ready to step up his level of competition.

The 30-year-old Gilbert, 13-1 with 10 knockouts, was originally scheduled to defend his North American Boxing Organization middleweight belt against Cincinnati’s Rob Dula, 15-2-1 (8), on March 2 at MontBleu Resort and Spa, in Stateline.

On Friday Gilbert, a three-time national champion for the University of Nevada boxing team, was informed that Dula was out with an injury and Michi Munoz, 17-0 (12), was in.

“I’m not going to get anywhere by not taking tougher fights,” Gilbert said Friday. “I want to step it up. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I’ve been able to train for this fight. I spent three weeks with (trainer) Dan (Birmingham) in St. Petersburg, where I did 60-80 rounds of boxing and got a lot of work. I’ve been in Tahoe for the last three weeks. I feel ready, real strong.”

Gilbert will not only be the headlining the seven-fight card, he will be promoting the show.

Although other active boxers are also promoters – such as middleweight Winky Wright and junior lightweight Erik Morales – Gilbert will join Oscar De La Hoya as the only boxers to fight on a card they are promoting.

Although he will be facing an unbeaten fighter in Munoz, Gilbert said he’s not concerned that he will also experience a change in styles. Dula was a southpaw and the 25-year-old Munoz, of Topeka, Kan., via Guanajuato, Mexico, is a right-hander.

“To be frank, I wasn’t getting much work in with southpaws,” Gilbert said. “I’ve been sparring (heavyweight) Lenroy Thomas, who’s 6-4, 250. He’s one of the quickest guys I’ve ever sparred.”

Munoz, known as the “Mexican Sensation,” is listed at 5-foot-9, giving the 6-foot Gilbert a decent height advantage, something he feels will add to what he believes to be an edge in conditioning.

“I’ve been working with guys 5-4 to (6-4),” Gilbert said. “I go two to three rounds, then someone fresh comes in for two rounds…I’ve been working with a lot of different guys. I think sparring lighter guys, with speed and quickness, has helped my reflexes.

“I don’t think (Munoz) is prepared to go 12 rounds with me. I’m prepared to go 15 rounds with him. I sprint on the treadmill on 9.5 (speed) with a 4.5 elevation. I get tired, but my recovery time is awesome.”

Gilbert defeated another former “Contender” – Jimmy Lange (in a rematch)- to win the NABO belt with a third-round technical knockout on Feb. 18, 2006. He followed the win with a first-round knockout of Jason Aaker in August at MontBleu in a non-title bout.

Gilbert is coming off a six-round TKO over Keith Sims, against whom he made his first title defense on Oct. 11, in White Plains, N.Y. He is on a four-fight winning streak since losing a five-round technical decision to Peter Manfredo Jr. on “The Contender,” in September 2004.

Gilbert had only nine professional bouts when he faced Lange (whom he beat), then 24-1-1, and 10 when he went up against Manfredo, who was 22-1. Now he’s once again ready to face a more experienced opponent.

“I’m not taking this guy lightly for a lot of reasons – not the least of which is I’m promoting this show and fighting on it,” Gilbert said. “I perform best under pressure. I’m a multi-tasker. I fight to the level of my opponent.”

And from what Gilbert hears, Munoz should provide him with a stiff test.

“If he’s as good as I’ve heard, he’ll bring out the Italian maniac in me,” Gilbert said. “I’m more reserved than the Joey Gilbert in the early days. I bring my skills. I’m patient. I’m not going to get hit on the button going after him. I’m thinking that will make the difference.

“I hear this guy comes forward and gets in on you. That’s fine. I tend to stand my ground. If he does (come forward)…”

Gilbert may have left his sentence unfinished, but on Friday he’ll be looking to finish his opponent.

The card will be held in the MontBleu Showroom. Doors open at 6 p.m. The first bout begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25, $50. $75, $150 and $200. For more information, call (775) 586-2044.